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Custom Cabinet Construction #1: Basic Base

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Blog entry by rhett posted 06-22-2010 08:16 PM 4362 reads 12 times favorited 13 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Custom Cabinet Construction series Part 2: Finishing the base ends »

Thought I might start a blog to give some insight into how to build a set of custom cabinets for your kitchen. This seems to be on every woodworkers list, and with all the books and instructions out there, it can get a bit confusing. I will focus my attention on a faceframe set of cabinets with 1/2” overlay doors and drawers. The kitchen you build can be as traditional or as funky as you want to get. There are though a few guidelines that need be followed for everything to work out. I will not get into design and layout, as this will be a nuts and bolts tutorial.

Let me begin with a basic base cabinet constructed from 3/4” plywood for the case and 3/4” hardwood for the face frame. A four drawer stack. The faceframe (FF) will extend 1/2” past on both sides. This would be an example of a cabinet between say a fridge and stove.

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My base wall side (BWS) will always be 34 1/2” tall and 23” deep. With the 1/4” back and 3/4” FF, your net depth is the standard 24”. You will need two sides for each base cabinet. The bottom fixed shelf (FXS) will fit into dadoes milled into each of the sides. The width of this FXS will also be 23”, but the length will vary depending on the size of your cabinet. It is best to rip your BWS and FXS at the same time

Here is an important note, the depth of your dadoe in the BWS is not what you need worry about. Sheet goods vary in thickness, even among all the ones sold as 3/4”. The technique is to leave 3/8” of material and let the dadoe be whatever depth it ends up being.

Here is why, if you have a constant 1/2” overhang on your FF and a constant 3/8” of material on your BWS it makes figuring cut sizes a breeze. Every base FXS will be 1 3/4” less than the desired end width.

Now, where to cut your dadoe. Set your fence to 4 3/4”. This will put the top of the dadoe approxomately 5 1/2” from the bottom.

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I make all my bottom rails 1 1/2” wide. With the set-up shown, this gives you the standard 4” toekick height.

Now a word about FF’s. I use 2” widths for rails and stiles on my base cabinets. I use 2 1/2” on any stile that will meet a wall. This gives me material to scribe off and avoids those unsightly filler strips. The distances between the top rail and bottom rail are up to you to determine. Drawer banks, doors or doors and drawers. This is where your “design” comes into play. Just be consistant throught the room. There will be natural breaks like dishwashers and ranges, this is where you want to keep your lines the same. A 6” drawer on the left of a stove and a 4” drawer on the right will cause a visual break in the line of cabinets.

On the back of the cabinet you will need a place to attach them to the wall. This is what a nailer is for. If you make all your rear nailers 6 1/2” wide, then the distance from the FXS to the nailer will be less than 24”. This optimizes your cuts on your 1/4”. Smaller 3 1/2” nailers running from the rear to the front will provide even more rigidity and will give you a place to attach your top. The small 45 degree offcuts you sometimes see on cabinets really do not provide much structural support.

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I hope this has started to shed some light on the process and I hope I have made sence with my explanations. Please let me know if any parts are unclear. I will continue to explain different situations as long as people want the info and can understand my ramblings. I have a whole bag if tricks once we get past basics.

-- It's only wood.



13 comments so far

View Moron's profile

Moron

4666 posts in 2584 days


#1 posted 06-22-2010 08:37 PM

made sense to me, although I build mine a tad different

-- "Good artists borrow, great artists steal”…..Picasso

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27251 posts in 2512 days


#2 posted 06-22-2010 11:41 PM

Thanks for the tutorial, Rhett. Your process makes sense to me as well and seems pretty easy to follow. I am looking forward to hearing more about your process.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View pommy's profile

pommy

1697 posts in 2382 days


#3 posted 06-22-2010 11:56 PM

Great tutorial Rhett but i got a bit confused on some of your wording IE: nailers are these baterns that you pre fix to the wall then fix cabinet to

Andy

-- cut it saw it scrap it SKPE: ANDREW.CARTER69

View nailbanger2's profile

nailbanger2

962 posts in 1834 days


#4 posted 06-23-2010 12:31 AM

I can’t speak for him, but I believe the nailers are inside the cabinet, strengthening the back, and sides.

Please continue, Rhett, the process is very revealing to people like myself that have never built them in large numbers. I love how you explain your reasoning with every step.

One question: The back is not fit into a groove along the BWS? Don’t know where I learned that (probably NYW).

-- Wish I were Norm's Nephew

View rhett's profile

rhett

699 posts in 2358 days


#5 posted 06-23-2010 01:19 AM

The “nailer” as I call it is exactly what NB2 refered to. It is a 6 1/2” wide piece of plywood that is the width of one inside wall to another. Personally I screw them in from the side if it isn’t a finished end and pocket hole them if it is.

I do not use a groove for the back. One reason is time, the other is that once the nailer is installed, I use the back piece of 1/4” to square up the case. Some rooglue and about 30 wide crown staples and that back isn’t going anywhere.

-- It's only wood.

View rhett's profile

rhett

699 posts in 2358 days


#6 posted 06-23-2010 01:25 AM

Moron, that is what I love about custom cabinetmakers. You go to five different shops and see five different ways to do the same end result.

You can start at the head, or you can start at the tail, but either way, the skins coming off that cat.

-- It's only wood.

View nailbanger2's profile

nailbanger2

962 posts in 1834 days


#7 posted 06-23-2010 01:41 AM

As usual, an answer begs a question: What is rooglue, Gorilla glue? I only have a finish stapler , should suffice, no?

-- Wish I were Norm's Nephew

View rhett's profile

rhett

699 posts in 2358 days


#8 posted 06-23-2010 02:51 AM

I use prefinished plywood to avoid the chore of finishing the insides of cabinets. Rooglue is a brand of melamine glue. If you were using raw plywood, regular yellow glue will do. A finish stapler will suffice as long as you adjust the shot so it doesn’t crush the ply. Just has to sit flush.

-- It's only wood.

View nailbanger2's profile

nailbanger2

962 posts in 1834 days


#9 posted 06-23-2010 03:59 AM

Thanks for answering, Rhett.

-- Wish I were Norm's Nephew

View GregD's profile

GregD

623 posts in 1826 days


#10 posted 06-23-2010 08:09 PM

Two more newbie questions. For a cabinet with an exposed (finished) side do you run a piece of trim along the back edge of the side to cover the edge of the 1/4” back (which would be exposed if I understand correctly)? Also, what do you use to make the cut-out in the side for the toe kick?

-- Greg D.

View rhett's profile

rhett

699 posts in 2358 days


#11 posted 06-23-2010 08:17 PM

Greg, I am going to do a post on finished ends specifically since there are a few different options to chose from.

I do the toekick notch on my band saw. I use a stop block to control the depth of cuts. I do a cut 3” deep by 4 3/4” high. This keeps the standard 3” TK depth as long as the material you use for your TK is the same thickness as the FF.

-- It's only wood.

View GregD's profile

GregD

623 posts in 1826 days


#12 posted 06-23-2010 08:51 PM

Thanks. Looking forward to the next installments.

-- Greg D.

View pommy's profile

pommy

1697 posts in 2382 days


#13 posted 06-23-2010 09:12 PM

thanks Rhett i get were you are coming from now

-- cut it saw it scrap it SKPE: ANDREW.CARTER69

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